Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Get Eight-Year Bans From FIFA

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressing a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 2, and UEFA President Michel Platini (R) attending the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29. Blatter and Platini have received eight-year bans from football. Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, and Michel Platini, the UEFA president, have received eight-year bans from all football-related activities for their involvement in a £1.35-million ($2 million) payment made in 2011—all but ending the football administration careers of both men. The decision, made by FIFA's Ethics Committee chair Hans-Joachim Eckert on Thursday, comes into force immediately, leaving Platini unable to stand for the FIFA presidency on February 26, as had been his intention.

The ethics committee ruled that there was "no legal basis" for the payment made by FIFA to Platini and sanctioned by Blatter, which took nine years to be processed. Blatter and Platini were, however, cleared of bribery in relation to the payment. Blatter appeared in front of the Ethics Committee on Thursday to protest his innocence and Platini, though not present, had his lawyers conducting his defence for him.

In September, investigators revealed they were looking into the possibility that Blatter had improperly used FIFA funds to direct the payment to Platini in February 2011, with Platini withdrawing from the race to be FIFA president soon after that date. Both men have denied these claims.

"Mr Blatter, in his position as president of FIFA, authorised the payment to Mr Platini which had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999," a FIFA ethics committee statement read.

Blatter and Platini were cleared of bribery in relation to the payment. Blatter appeared in front of the Ethics Committee on Thursday to protest his innocence and Platini, though not present, had his lawyers conducting his defence for him.

"Mr Blatter, in his position as president of FIFA, authorised the payment to Mr Platini which had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999," a FIFA ethics committee statement read.

"Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber."

The Ethics Committee rejected Platini's defence that he and Blatter had an "oral agreement" in place over the payment, stating: "The proceedings against Mr Platini primarily related to a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) that he received in February 2011 from FIFA.

"The payment to Mr Platini had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999. Mr Platini's assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.

"By failing to place FIFA's interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA's interests, Mr Platini also violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA.

"In addition, Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities."

At a press conference, held at FIFA HQ soon after news of his ban broke, a defiant Blatter confirmed that he would appeal his sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying: "I am not ashamed. I regret but I am not ashamed. I regret I am a punching ball and for my organization I have served with my heart and conscience for 41 years."

Asked about the payment to Platini, Blatter said: "I didn't question it—how can I question the price of a person? I told him that FIFA could not pay him all the money now, we'll pay you later on. He asked for the payment later on—the debt existed."

This is a developing news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Get Eight-Year Bans From FIFA | Sports